Cuba, U.S. still fight Cold War
February 19, 2000 - Frank Davies - Miami Herald
WASHINGTON -- For the United States, the Cold War and its high-stakes spy vs. spy dramas are long over. For Cuba, with its aggressive intelligence forces, that war never ended.
That may be the lesson in the FBI investigation that led to the arrest of a top Immigration and Naturalization Service official in Miami, Mariano Faget, on charges of spying for Cuba, according to a former diplomat who was President Clintons top advisor on U.S.-Cuba policy.
Richard Nuccio, now a consultant and professor at Georgetown University, recalled that in the early 1990s it was difficult to get the FBI to focus on Cuba as a national security threat.
"Weve had a loosening of vigilance in these matters after the Cold War," Nuccio said Friday. "But the Cuban government has never ended the Cold War, the United States is still the enemy and it will use every means at its disposal to protect its interests."
Nuccio said he did not know operational details of how or if Cuban government agents in the United States were kept under surveillance, but that it was not a high priority.
"I think its kind of haphazard or lucky when we can catch them [Cuba] doing something like this," he added.
According to the FBI, Faget made unauthorized contacts with Cuban agents in the last year, including someone in the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, and provided information about possible defectors.
Two federal officials, working in different agencies, would not discuss Friday the surveillance of Cuban agents in the United States, or respond to the notion that the FBI in Washington does not take Cuba as seriously as FBI agents and local police in South Florida.
But the two officials, who requested anonymity, did explain the rules and restrictions Cuban officials operate under.
Cubans in Washington cannot travel more than 25 miles from the White House without written notification to the State Department at least three days in advance. Cubans at the U.N. mission in New York -- like Americans at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana -- operate under similar restrictions.
Over the years, a handful of Cuban officials in New York and Washington have been asked to leave the United States for possible spying, but such operations were taken more seriously, said Nuccio, after Cuban jets shot down two Brothers to the Rescue planes in 1996.
In September 1998, 10 members of an alleged Cuban spy ring were arrested in South Florida. Federal officials said the group tried to infiltrate the exile community and possibly military installations.
On Feb. 2 a husband-wife team, Joseph and Amarylis Santos, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to act as a foreign agent. Earlier, three others pleaded guilty to similar charges. The trials of Gerardo Hernandez, leader of the alleged spy ring, and four others is set for May 22.
If the charges against Faget hold up, Nuccio said, that may be further evidence of Cubas patience and "long-term thinking" in developing a source in the U.S. government.
"Washington may not be focused on Cuba, but Cuba has been focused on us for 40 years," Nuccio said. "Cuba doesnt seem a threat to many people here, but it can still precipitate a migration crisis or shoot down two planes and kill four innocent people."